African Union not defending press freedom
February 18, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – A press freedom group says the African Union is not doing enough to defend press freedom while governments continue to crack down on journalists.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in its annual survey released on Tuesday said, global and regional institutions with a responsibility to guard press freedom are largely failing to fulfill their mandate as journalists worldwide continue to face threats, imprisonment, intimidation, and killings, according to the ‘Attacks on the Press’ report.
“While international law guarantees the right to free expression, journalists cannot count on a robust defense of those rights,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon.
“The recent unprecedented repression and persecution of journalists in Egypt, for example, provides an important opportunity for global and regional institutions to speak and act forcefully in defense of a free press.”
Attacks on the Press is the world’s most comprehensive guide to international press freedom, with thorough analysis of the key factors that obstruct a free press by CPJ’s regional experts. It includes a special feature on the invisible nature of online attacks meant to curb journalists, including online surveillance, malicious software, and the elimination of news sites from the internet.
CPJ found that a halfhearted, inconsistent approach to defending press freedom plagues institutions like the United Nations, the African Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, among others.
“While valiant special rapporteurs at various institutions battle anti-media violence, their efforts are stymied by a halting political will to guarantee press freedom,” said Simon.
According to the group, the rising investigative journalism in Africa has led governments in the region to crack down on journalists, particularly those reporting on the provision of basic services and the use of public money.
“From Cameroon to South Africa, authorities are moving aggressively to unmask confidential news sources, criminalize possession of government documents, and retaliate against probing journalists—all while governments across the continent, under pressure from donor countries, are pledging more transparency and accountability’’ it said.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.